CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not happy with a rogue recycling firm that put up trash and recycling bins on city streets without proper permits; and the mayor’s especially unhappy with Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st), whose name and face adorn the cans.
The illegal bins were removed Wednesday after the company learned of the mayor’s complaints.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine first reported on the illegal trash bins on Tuesday and has tracked down the owners of “Free Green Can,” which owns the bins.
They responded to Emanuel’s complaints by pulling all the cans until and unless they get the proper city permits. It took them a full day to respond to questions about the trash bins; coincidentally, right after the mayor’s angry comments.
When they did, the company president blamed the city’s confusing permit process and praised Moreno for choosing recycling over red tape.
Moreno’s name and face are on virtually every combination trash can-recycling bin on public sidewalks in his Northwest Side ward, none of which have required city permits.
“If an ordinance exists, if there’s rules to the road, follow them. If not, there are consequences to those decisions,” Emanuel said Wednesday.
Asked why his company put up the bins when at least one alderman informed him he needed a city permit first, Free Green Can president Steve Holland said “The permit process in city of Chicago is delegated into different buckets, and we don’t fit perfectly into any one of those buckets.”
So Holland said the company decided to put them up without permits, “after talking with Alderman Moreno and seeing the champion he had become.”
Moreno was the only alderman, of many they talked to, who agreed to the free recycling for advertising deal, then had his own picture put on them.
A spokesman for Moreno first said the alderman “paid for the ad”, then changed it to, he “will pay for it,” before admitting they were considered “campaign contributions”.
“I haven’t given Aldermen Moreno one dollar,” Holland said. “The invoice that we haven’t even issued yet for him, because his cans haven’t even been out for 30 days, I think is $2,000.”
Emanuel said “each alderman has to make their own decision. I would highly recommend, if a company’s not following the rules, as set up by the City Council, I wouldn’t be cooperating with them by advertising.”
CBS 2 has learned the city inspector general’s office is now looking into how these containers got on city streets and who got paid what.
Holland – who grew up in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, and whose family members include Chicago cops and firefighters – said he just wants to make it right.
“Just because of this story, and we don’t want to cause any ill will with anyone, we’ve automatically decided to pull the 25 cans,” Holland said. It’s my decision, I made the call. It’s unfortunate that there’s not going to be recycling in Wicker Park, and we’re gonna lay some people off. That’s unfortunate. But we look to get resolution for this as soon as possible.”
As to who’s collecting the trash and recyclables from the bins in the 1st Ward, or where they’re being dumped, the company identified as Free Green Can’s waste hauling contractor refused to answer questions.
Holland said everything was being taken to the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation facilities. However, when CBS 2 asked Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne about it, he said no one had asked or received his permission to haul the waste and recycling to city sites. The Chicago Department of Transportation, responding to Emanuel’s comments, has just ordered all the containers removed immediately.